"A Quantum of Gold-dust"
Written by Craig Arthur
A quirk of the combination of Ian Fleming’s For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy story collections in the new Quantum Of Solace: The Complete James Bond Short Stories, is that the book begins and ends with Bond day-dreaming about a woman named Solange.
In the opening story, From a View to a Kill, Bond sits in a Paris café imagining that he would “somehow find himself a girl who was a real girl, and he would take her to dinner at some make-believe place in the Bois like the Armenon-ville… He would say to her: ‘I propose to call you Donatienne, or possibly Solange, because these are names that suit my mood and the evening.'”
By 007 in New York, the final story included in the collection, his daydream has found fulfilment. He has found Solange. Or rather the story is a Fleming daydream about his alter ego in Manhattan on business (“to warn a nice girl, who had once worked for the Secret Service, an English girl now earning her living in New York, that she was cohabiting with a Soviet agent of KGB…”) and to do some shopping ending at Abercrombies’s “to look over the new gadgets and, incidentally, make a date with Solange (appropriately employed in their indoor Games Department) for the evening.” Bond then daydreams about the places in New York he would take her to: “Dinner with Solange would be easy – Lutece in the sixties, one of the great restaurants of the world…” He also reflects on her obsession with hygiene: “Every time Bond had made love to Solange, at a time when they should retire to the bathroom for a long quarter and there was a lengthy period after that when he couldn’t kiss her because she had gargled with TCP. And the pills she took if she had a cold! Enough to combat double pneumonia.” We also discovered that she likes jazz. But for all these insights, Solange remains as much a daydream as the anonymous fantasy figure in From a View to a Kill.
She does become a character in her own right in Casino Royale (2006), however. Or rather, in a reference to these two Ian Fleming short stories, the screenwriters appropriated the name and used it for Caterina Murino’s character. (Appropriated it and, in my opinion wasted it. Because, as with Kissy Suzuki in You Only Live Twice, the character is never referred to by name.)
The character of Solange in Casino Royale is essentially a variation on Domino in Thunderball, Liz Krest in the short story The Hildebrand Rarity or Rhoda Masters in Quantum of Solace. Like Domino, Solange is in a relationship with a brutal criminal in the Bahamas. But more importantly, like Liz Krest or Rhoda Masters, the downtrodden Solange is in a marriage where the “quantum of solace” as Fleming defines it – amount of comfort – is at zero, as was the case in Rhoda Masters’ marriage to Philip Masters. Milton Krest’s use of a stingray tail to whip his wife in The Hildebrand Rarity was incorporated into Licence to Kill, but Alex Dimitrios’s cold indifference to Solange is more reminiscent of the Masters’ marriage in Quantum of Solace where Philip Masters froze Rhoda out of his daily existence, even dividing their house in half, and leaving her destitute. Hence the amount of comfort in the marriage is nil.
Casino Royale evoked elements of Quantum of Solace. It is possibly as close to a literal adaptation of this Fleming short story as we are likely to see (even taking place in a similar setting, the Bahamas). But Quantum of Solace also provides the title for the new Bond movie, as well as the inspiration, the springboard, for at least one spectacular action sequence. The boating sequence, set in Port-au-Prince, is perhaps a reference to Bond’s Caribbean mission to sabotage the gun-runners boats in the short story. In the story, the guns were intended to help destabilise the Cuban Government while in the movie Dominic Greene’s Quantum organisation is engineering a coup d’état in Bolivia. But in the movie there are no guns. Instead, Dominic Greene ‘gives’ General Medrano Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko) as a ‘sweetener’ in their deal to destabilise the Bolivian Government and Bond liberates her from Medrano’s boat. It could even be argued that the use of the vintage DC3 aircraft in the movie’s spectacular aerial dog-fight harks back to the early era of commercial aviation when Philip Masters met his future wife (a former air hostess).
Elements of every short story in the new Quantum of Solace collection have made it into the Bond movies made between For Your Eyes Only in 1981 and Quantum of Solace in 2008. Whether it was simply the use of the Parisian and rural French setting of From a View to a Kill in A View To a Kill, the names Milton Krest and the ‘Wavekrest’ and the other elements of The Hildebrand Rarity in Licence to Kill, or the (near faithful) adaptation of The Living Daylights in The Living Daylights or For Your Eyes Only and Risico in For Your Eyes Only.
Occasionally, the filmmakers squeeze double mileage out of the same short story. They gave Milton Krest’s elegant yacht, the ‘Wavekrest’ from The Hildebrand Rarity to Colombo in For Your Eyes Only in order to have a passing nod to as many stories from the For Your Eyes Only collection as they could. They then used the names in Licence to Kill. Again, in Octopussy they used the Berlin setting of The Living Daylights. They then filmed the short story itself – transplanted to the Czech city of Bratislava – in The Living Daylights. And now they have used the title and concept for Quantum of Solace, having previously evoked elements of Quantum of Solace into Casino Royale (2006).
The filmmakers have similarly obtained double mileage out of ideas from Fleming’s novels. Live And Let Die especially. The keel-hauling sequence from the novel was adapted into the cheaper-and-easier-to-film sequence where Kananga ties Bond and Solitaire to the pulley and intends to feed them to the sharks in the 1973 movie. A more literal version of what Fleming intended was later included in For Your Eyes Only. And Licence to Kill similarly made use of sequences from the novel not used in Live And Let Die.
Even when the movies have borne little similarity to their source material, vestiges of the original Fleming novels or short stories always remain, if one is willing to look hard enough. This is even true of Charles K Feldman’s Casino Royale (1967). The baccarat game with Le Chiffre remains, as does the kidnap of Vesper afterward and the torture scene and the later revelation that Vesper is a double-agent. Similarly, although they were only permitted to use the title of The Spy Who Loved Me, the filmmakers still managed to incorporate two villains from Fleming’s novel, turning the metal-teethed Horror into Jaws and Sluggsy into Sandor, in a movie that is a remake of You Only Live Twice. Although A View to a Kill bears no resemblance to the short story that inspired it, the movie still retains From A View to a Kill‘s setting as I have mentioned. The titles of the movies GoldenEye and The World is Not Enough referred to the name of Fleming’s Jamaican house and the Bond family motto from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, respectively. Die Another Day used the basic premise of Fleming’s Moonraker for it plot, as well as the inspiration for the high-tech shooting gallery in the Universal Export basement (now a virtual reality simulator) and the Blades club (with a fencing bout replacing the bridge game). But Die Another Day also contained allusions to Fleming’s non-fiction work – the illegal Sierra Leone diamond trade from The Diamond Smugglers and according to the DVD commentary, the name of the masseuse, Peaceful Fountains of Desire, which was inspired by similar, real-life names Fleming listed in the Hong Kong chapter of Thrilling Cities. (There is even a nice nod to the origins of the Bond name in the movie, when he picks up a copy of James Bond’s Birds of the West Indies and poses as an ornithologist.)
There is always some sort of direct link, however tenuous, back to Fleming’s work, to honour his creation and let us know we are still dealing with the devil we know. Even though the later films tend to me remakes of earlier Bond films. You Only Live Twice is a remake of Dr No. The Spy Who Loved Me is a remake of You Only Live Twice. Tomorrow Never Dies is a remake of The Spy Who Loved Me. Octopussy and A View to a Kill are Goldfinger remakes.
The reason the filmmakers began to adapt Fleming’s short stories into Bond movies was because they had already adapted (however loosely) all the novels apart from Casino Royale. The reason they are now use elements of less likely stories such as 007 in New York and Quantum of Solace, or even the allusions to Fleming’s non-fiction works in Die Another Day, is because the more cinematic short stories have already been adapted (or squandered in the case of The Hildebrand Rarity or From a View to a Kill).
Fifty years ago, Ian Fleming had just completed writing Goldfinger. The 1964 movie version would turn Bond into a cultural phenomenon – a phenomenon beyond anything Ian Fleming could have imagined – and provide the blueprint for subsequent Bond movies, including Quantum of Solace.
In Goldfinger, Colonel Smithers at the Bank of England gives Bond a lecture on gold commodities. Having already explained that one of gold’s defects is that it is not hard enough (“It wears out quickly, leaves itself on the linings of our pockets and in the sweat of our skins. Every year, the world’s stock is invisibly reduced by friction.”), he predicts that by 2008 the world’s gold reserves will have run out. “‘At this rate, Mr Bond,’ Colonel Smithers leaned forward earnestly, ‘- and please don’t quote me – but I wouldn’t be surprised if in fifty years’ time we have not totally exhausted the gold content of the earth!'”
This concern with the world’s finite resources running out eerily predicts the era we live in. The era of Quantum of Solace. The era of Dominic Greene’s efforts to control as much of the planet’s water as he can. But it is also perhaps an indicator of Fleming’s own fear that his inspiration was flagging, signalling the more world-weary, doom-fraught tone of his later work. Having already attempted to kill off Bond forever at the end of From Russia, With Love, only to resurrect him for Dr No. A television treatment Fleming developed for Henry Morgenthau III provided part of the inspiration for Dr No. But he was struggling with Goldfinger.
Despite its later impact on popular culture via the success of the movie, Goldfinger represented Fleming’s weakest novel to date. According to James Bond: The Man and his World by Henry Chancellor, “Fleming had originally conceived the scene involving Bond’s card game with Goldfinger, set at the Hotel Fontainebleau, Miami, as a separate short story, and the same is true of the scene where Bond smashes the aeroplane window and Oddjob is sucked out.” The strain of trying to link story ideas into a cohesive narrative was beginning to show. As quoted in John Pearson’s The Life of Ian Fleming, “Fleming had already announced to William Plomer that, as he had ‘really run out of puff’, Goldfinger would have to be ‘the last full length folio on Bond … Though I may be able to think up some episodes for him in the future, I shall never be able to give him 70,000 words again.’ The full-length James Bond books which had once been a treat to write were by now becoming a chore.”
Short stories flowed more easily. And for the For Your Eyes Only collection, he was able to draw once again on unused scripts he had submitted for a proposed James Bond TV series. Working with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham on the film script that would become Thunderball provided him with one of his strongest novels in 1961. Plus, he would he would also go on to write the magnificent On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But he was contending with health problems in addition to flagging creative energy.
The two Fleming Bond books published posthumously suggested the gold had run out, metaphorically speaking. The Man With the Golden Gun was weak in terms of narrative and prose style and while the two short stories in the original 1966 hardback edition of Octopussy and The Living Daylights (written in 1962 and 1961 respectively) were of a higher standard, the book itself was insubstantial in that it contained just two short stories. (The Property of a Lady was included to the subsequent paperback editions, with 007 in New York added to the Penguin and Viking 2002 edition).Fittingly enough, Octopussy even deals with a dwindling hoard of gold as its plot MacGuffin. The story perhaps reflects Fleming’s own middle-aged malaise. Its protagonist is not Bond but Dexter Smythe, a retired Army Major, the same approximate age as Fleming when he wrote the story, with health problems (two coronary thromboses), who enjoys exploring the marine biology on the reefs of the north shore of Jamaica, as Fleming himself did. As such, Smythe reflects Fleming’s own malaise, his “spiritual accidie”, as he puts it in the story, “tropical sloth”. Time is running out and Dexter Smythe “had arrived at the frontier of the death-wish”. There are flashbacks to Kitzbühel in Austria, where Fleming also spent time before the war, dreaming up endless tales of a villainous Austrian Count, Graf von Schlick and his mistresses. In Kitzbühel, Smythe recovered a treasure trove of Nazi gold and then murdered his mountain guide – Bond’s old ski instructor – and pushes the body into a glacier to cover his tracks. But in Jamaica, retribution is approaching and Smythe’s ill-gotten treasure trove is running out, just as for Bond fans and Fleming’s publishers, Octopussy is the last of the gold and as Raymond Benson suggests in The James Bond Bedside Companion, “Octopussy, the affectionately named pet that Smythe feeds daily, could be a symbol of the treasure which is just beyond reach.”
Like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow — the further Bond stories that fans crave and that Fleming might have gone on to write. Had he lived longer.
Eventually of course, the producers of the Bond movies inherited this problem, coping with a finite supply of Ian Fleming material to adapt for the cinema screen. By 2008, Colonel Smithers predicted, the world’s gold supply would be exhausted; by 2008, virtually every Ian Fleming title and story idea has been used. Quantum of Solace is one of the few unused titles, coming from perhaps the least likely short story to provide the inspiration for a Bond movie.
The filmmakers have become very skilful at recycling narrative structures and integrating elements of unlikely cinematic material from Fleming works. Octopussy, for instance, paraphrases the events of the Octopussy short story in dialogue form, explaining that Octopussy is Dexter Smythe’s daughter and hence the movie is a sequel to that story. Also, the Sotheby’s auction of a Faberge egg from The Property of a Lady is used, as is the Berlin setting of The Living Daylights, so that the movie incorporates something from each of the stories in the Octopussy short story collection. These Fleming elements are then incorporated into what is essentially a literal remake of Goldfinger. The smuggled Russian jewels from The Property of a Lady replace gold as the MacGuffin but the titular character is a revised version of Goldfinger‘s Pussy Galore, a ‘good baddy’ with links to a smuggler. The smuggler, besides cheating at games of chance and being driven around by his chauffer/henchman in a vintage Rolls Royce, is using Octopussy’s circus – like Pussy Galore’s “Flying Circus” – in a plot cooked up by a foreign general to explode an atomic bomb in a strategic target in the West. Though this time the target is an American airbase in West Germany, rather than Fort Knox. The plot is foiled when, like Pussy Galore, Octopussy’s allegiances switch from the villain to Bond at the crucial moment.
But in Octopussy, the filmmakers even succeed in recycling elements of Casino Royale (1967). It is not just that the dour, aging Roger Moore waltzes through the action sequences with the same deadpan humour as David Niven playing Sir James Bond. (There is even the same joke when Bond arrives at HQ and tells Moneypenny is getting younger every day before it is revealed that this is really her daughter, in Casino Royale, or her new assistant, Penelope Smallbone, in Octopussy.) Nor is it simply that Ursula Andress (Honey Rider in Dr No) also plays Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale and Maud Adams returns to play Octopussy, having already appeared as Andrea Anders in The Man With The Golden Gun. Vesper and Octopussy are similar characters. Both are wealthy, independent women with dubious associations, who made their money through shadowy or questionable means. While Sir James Bond believed that Vesper was eaten by a shark, only to discover it was her “personal submarine”, so Octopussy thinks that a crocodile devoured Bond when really he escaped in his one-man crocodile-sub. In fact, most gadgets in Octopussy bear a striking similarity to those in Casino Royale. Both feature wristwatch TVs and pens that squirt either poisonous gas (in Casino Royale) or sulphuric acid (in Octopussy). Even the one-liner about how these pens could be useful for writing “poison-pen letters” is the same in both movies. Both movies also have sequences in Berlin, under the shadow of the Berlin Wall, as well as hunting scenes where Bond becomes the prey. And in both, Bond travels to India to meet a woman who is the daughter of somebody from his past – Mata Bond in Casino Royale and Dexter Smythe’s daughter, Octopussy. Both Mata and Octopussy live in exotic Indian palaces surrounded by a bevy of female servants in Hindu costumes.
For Quantum of Solace, the filmmakers again returned to a Goldfinger-type scenario, creating a villain in league with a foreign general so that he can control a vital global commodity – water instead of gold. They have then used Fleming heroines such as Tilly Masterton in Goldfinger or Judy Havelock from For Your Eyes Only as the inspiration for vengeful Camille Montes. Bond himself is not out for revenge, per sa. As Daniel Craig explains, “the idea of vengeance which kind of comes into it is really everybody’s idea … they think that he has gone off course and that . . . he is a loose cannon … that his emotions have taken over and actually that is more complicated in the story and the idea of vengeance is the furthest thing from his mind. He just wants to get his closure, hence the title, Quantum of Solace.”
Although Bond himself is not out for revenge, the movie itself loosely borrows from the structure of 1989’s Licence to Kill. Both movies begin with a major villain delivered into custody (Sanchez/White), who then escapes with the help of a traitor supposedly guarding him. Both movies are set in Latin America with the villain either keeping a dictator in power (Licence to Kill) or plotting to install a General as one (Quantum of Solace). And once again, Bond is on the run, a rogue in M’s eyes for much of the narrative. M’s confrontation with Bond in his La Paz hotel suite in Quantum of Solace parallels the similar confrontation with M at Hemingway House at Key West in Licence to Kill. Camille and Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton) are essentially variations on Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto) and Pam Bouvier (Cary Lowell), with several key differences. In Licence to Kill, Lupe Lamora is minor figure compared to Camille in Quantum of Solace. Both carry the scars of ill treatment by violent men; in Camille’s case burn scars from when General Medrano (Joaquin Cosío) set fire to her family home. But where Lupe is willing to put up with Sanchez whipping her and is merely looking for an escape from the poverty of her past – ultimately hooking up with President Lopez (Pedro Armendariz) – Camille seeks to kill Medrano. Fields is a minor character compared to Bouvier but some of Bouvier’s characteristics are shifted to Camille. For instance, Camille objects to being rescued from Medrano’s boat as Bouvier objected to Bond “saving” her from Sanchez’s hoods in the Bimini bar (the boat and Bimini setting in Licence to Kill are themselves perhaps a nod to Fleming’s Quantum of Solace, given the liberal use of elements of The Hildebrand Rarity). An ensuing argument occurs between the parties during the nautical escape in both movies. In terms of the villains, Greene in Quantum of Solace is hiding behind an environmental front organisation, Green Planet, much like Sanchez’s use of televangelist Professor Joe Butcher in his drug distribution network in Licence to Kill. The climax at the Eco Hotel, Perla de las Dunas, in Quantum of Solace loosely parallels the meeting between Sanchez and his Asian investors at the meditation institute. In both movies, the villain is about to clinch the deal. Both times Bond’s intervention prevents this and leads to the subsequent fiery destruction of the facility. Both movies feature a scene where Bond presents himself at the villain’s dockside warehouse, as a representative of Universal Exports.
Bond’s cover identity, given on his Universal Exports business card, is “R. Sterling” and in the movie The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond also used the cover name, Robert Sterling. There are several echoes of The Spy Who Loved Me in Quantum of Solace. The car chase with the on-coming trucks in the pre-title sequence. The Quantum ‘board meeting’ at the opera is vaguely reminiscent of the submarine tracking-device buyers meeting at the pyramids and Bond pushes Guy Haines’s bodyguard off the Opera House roof after trying to question him in much the same way that Roger Moore dispensed with Sandor after questioning him. And, of course, the sequence with Bond and Camille walking through the Bolivian desert in formal evening wear is an allusion to the near identical scene in The Spy Who Loved Me.
Quantum of Solace‘s aerial sequence is actually also another exercise in recycling. The idea of Bond skydiving into a sinkhole from a low altitude was originally slated for 1995’s GoldenEye. Like the helicopter buzz-saw attack on the caviar factory that later made it into The World is Not Enough, the sequence was deemed either too expensive or difficult to film at the time. So it never made it onto the screen until now. But, rather like Solange eventually making the transition from simply a name in Bond’s imagination to an actual character, the sequence finally finds a home in Quantum of Solace.
It does seem, however, that indeed fifty years on from when Fleming wrote Goldfinger, the ‘gold’ is indeed running out, so-to-speak. What is there left for the filmmakers to use?
We can probably expect to see the poisoning of the fish from The Hildebrand Rarity at some point, as well as unused character names such as Shatterhand (most likely for the head villain of Quantum), along with movie titles Risico and The Property of a Lady. (The Property of a Lady would work especially well if it referred to Bond’s relationship to Judi Dench’s M. Plus the title conveniently contains two “o”s – The Property of a Lady – to link to the zeros in ‘007’). But what else remains? How can the Bond franchise remain – to use the buzz-word of our times – sustainable?
In Goldfinger, when Colonel Smithers tells Bond that he thinks that by 2008, the world’s gold supplies would be exhausted, Bond responds by telling him, ‘You certainly make a fascinating story of it. Perhaps the position isn’t as bad as you think. They’re already mining oil under the sea. Perhaps they’ll find a way of mining gold.'”
Charlie Higson’s Young Bond adventures are already paving the way for this. In 2007, he took an unused name from one of Ian Fleming’s notebooks and gave it to one of his villains in Hurricane Gold, Manny the Girl. Now in By Royal Command, its 2008 follow-up, Higson brings to life a villain Ian Fleming created at age 19.
By Royal Command draws heavily on source material from Fleming’s Bond books. It expands upon the events alluded to in Bond’s obituary in You Only Live Twice. Hannes Oberhauser, the character from Octopussy who Dexter Smythe killed and pushed into a glacier, also makes an appearance, teaching Bond to ski and fulfilling the role of “something of a father” to Bond, as Fleming described him. And there are other allusions to Bond’s later ski lessons at the “old Hannes Schneider School at St Anton in the Arlberg” (where Bond “had got pretty good and had won his golden K”) and to the instructor Fuchs, both mentioned in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
In addition, Higson pays homage to Fleming’s real-life connections to the Kitzbühel area, even incorporating the Graf von Schlick character Fleming dreamt up while staying in Tennerhof in 1937.
According to The Life of Ian Fleming by John Pearson, “He [Fleming] invented an endless story about Graf Schlick, the local lord of the manor who lived in the big castle at the end of the valley, and had him committing the most terrible crimes and perpetuating unspeakable tortures. At the end of one of these stories, when the Graf had performed multiple villainies upon some unprotesting virgin, retribution caught up with him.”
Andrew Lycett’s 1995 biography, Ian Fleming, explains how Count Schlick was based on an actual Czech adventurer who had adopted that name and started the first ski club in Kitzbühel. “As later often happened with his books, Ian found some of his best material closest to hand. He was fascinated by the exploits of the local aristocrats, the von Lambergs. The Graf (or Count) Max von Lamberg had a formidable reputation for drinking and womanizing. While his wife and three children lived in the family castle, a sugary Gothic confection called the Schloss Kaps, Graf Max camped out in a nearby chalet with a blonde mistress who worked in the photographer’s shop and who was consequently known as the Photo-Grafin. Count Max’s exotic sister, Paula, was a close neighbour in the Schloss Lebenberg. She was an artist and sportswoman, widely known as the best female ski-jumper in the world. She married a Czech adventurer who adopted the name ‘Count Schlick’ and who started the first ski club in Kitzbühel. Schlick ran through her money, but not before introducing her to motor racing which led to her death. She was competing with her husband in a race in Salzburg, when she mysteriously fell out of the car and was killed. Local gossip had it that she was pushed by Schlick who, having inherited her castle and land, methodically sold it off piece by piece. Ian liked to concoct stories about the evils perpetuated by Schlick, including graphic details of tortures the Count devised.”
In By Royal Command, Higson combines aspects of Fleming’s Schlick with the real life Max von Lamberg to bring Ian Fleming’s ideas to life after 71 years in suspended animation, like Oberhauser’s corpse preserved in the ice until the glacier thaws. Higson’s Otto von Schlick, like Fleming’s creation, inhabits Schloss Donnerspitze – “a monstrous medieval castle built high into the side of the Schwarzkogel above Jochenberg … a huge pile of massive grey-black stones, ugly and domineering, like a pile of massive grey-black stones, ugly and domineering, like a great bully squatting on the mountainside, sneering at the puny houses below.” He likes to drive dangerously around the winding alpine roads in his Bugatti Type 55 Supersport with his mistress. He is closer to von Lamberg than Fleming’s villainous creation but, supposedly badly injured in a car accident, a surviving villain from Higson’s first Young Bond adventure SilverFin with Nazi affiliations, Dr Perseus Friend, adopts the Graf’s identity and carries out the sort of “unspeakable crimes” Fleming might have imagined. So that Fleming’s ‘first’ villain becomes one and the same with one of Bond’s first adversaries in chronological terms.
So in the same way that Solange started out as simply a name in From a View to a Kill, then a character referred to in 007 in New York and a fully-fledged character in the 2006 movie version of Casino Royale, Schlick finds life in By Royal Command.
This, as I see it, is the future of Bond. Taking the thread of unused Ian Fleming ideas to remind us we are still dealing with the devil we know and recycling them into something new.
Anybody reading Sebastian Faulks’s lazy effort with Devil May Care could be forgiven for thinking that the prediction of a world in 2008 where all the Bondian gold has been used up. That the well has run dry.
Charlie Higson proves that this is not the case. There is still gold. It is just, as Bond tells Colonel Smithers, a matter of finding new ways to mine it.
© Craig Arthur 2008